Between the furrows
Course 1 to Course 9
Peter Pilcher (Course 1)
Cecil Peter Edward Pilcher came from the Bulawayo side of the country. After Plumtree school, he had a spell in the Irrigation department then did some work for Boss Lilford. Peter would quote one of Boss’s sayings 'You can always make more money, but you can never make more time!'
Peter started at Gwebi with Mike Bailey and others who also became great friends, on the first course in February 1950. At college he won the Stewarts and Lloyds Prize for Practical Engineering and following up from that, after graduating at Gwebi, he went to Writtle in the UK to the Essex Institute of Agriculture and gained a diploma in Agricultural Engineering and became a member of the Institution of Agricultural Engineers, UK. He came back and moved around a bit, from Licatera Estates - miserable pay, then Trelawney research station as engineer in charge of equipment for about 18 months. Then as a farm manager, Banket, Bob Reynolds, then Mtoko first managing under Bob Chalmers and then George Lindsay.
Then encouraged by George, plus a bonus of new tractor, he applied for and was allocated a Crown land farm, North West of Karoi, which he named Laughing Hills. There he set up in 1962, next to his great friend Mike Bailey from his course one who had started there in 1960. The small group of enthusiastic young farmers became a wonderful bunch of neighbours.
40 years later after a bush war, plus many trials and tribulations, cheerful children, some great years and a few tough ones, he had to leave the farm, due to a very poorly thought out land grab that could have been done so much better if all Zimbabweans were taken into account and wisdom had prevailed but it affected Zimbabwe so badly. Still does.
Peter kept in contact with a few of his Course 1 mates that were around, writing to Peter Hofmeyer in Cape Town. Mike Bailey was lost in about 1982 to cancer.
Peter passed away, after a long battle with illness, on 25th March 2019, leaving behind his wife, Frances; three out of four children - Grant, (Cherylyn), Coralee and Angus; and four grandchildren.
Contributed by Grant Pilcher, his son.
Clive Style (Course 1)
George Style established Buffalo Range Ranch in 1955. In 1960 he set aside 8,000 hectares along the Chiredzi River for wildlife as heavy use along the river for watering livestock had degraded it. The 12,000 hectares away from the river was developed for livestock by fencing and the establishment of water points. George Style experimented with wildlife as much as a hobby as for commercial reasons. Wildlife browsers like eland, kudu, and impala thrived and the sensitive grazing species like sable, roan, and Lichtenstein's hartebeest which had been displaced by cattle began to recover in number. Impala were culled to be sold through his butcheries and mini-safaris were initiated in the early 1970s with foreign hunting clients in a well-appointed hunting camp. George and his son, Clive, encouraged the use of their ranch for comparative research. Detailed vegetation transects showed that cattle grazing damaged perennial grasses and the soil surface under continuous high stocking rates. The use of wildlife enabled the range to slowly recover next to the river. This rare data set was invaluable in determining savannah sustainability.
George retired to Chisipite, Salisbury and also “bright lighted” in homesteads in the sharp end. Clive took over as Managing Director of Buffalo Range Safaris and had been joined by his brother Rodney.
Clive passed away in 2003 and his sons, Barry and Rob - who had become professional hunters - took over.
Bundu Waller (Course 1)
Noel "Bundu" Waller is renowned as an efficient and neat farmer in Centenary and hosted many tours from Gwebi College over the years. in 1974 Noel established the record after 100 appearances for Mashonalnd Country Districts Cricket XI.
Bundu was a spotter for Wally Barton in the Police Reserve Air Wing until he had clocked up 475 hours then became a PRAW pilot in his own right.
His son Andy - another "Bundu" - played in 2 tests and 39 One Day Internationals for the national side. His grandson Malcolm was a middle order batsman and offspinner for Zimbabwe.
"Although the bleeding was spectacular..." Centenary Club.
John Shaw shares a delightful story, "I knew Bundu Waller (Course 1) and Jane when I worked at Centenary for Norman Price. I remember, one evening, at the Centenary Club, we were all sitting on the veranda, having a quiet drink. There were children playing and riding their bicycles around the place, as the sun set. One of the Waller girls, I think her name was Susan, came rushing on her bike directly up to the veranda steps. She shot over the handle-bars and crashed through the plate glass door. There was glass everywhere and much blood. Without stirring from her chair, Jane said, “Susan, don’t leave your bicycle there, someone might trip over it”. The bicycle was retrieved and parked in a safe place, then, without further ado, Jane took her daughter in hand and tended her wounds. I have often thought what a wonderful way to deal with a tricky situation. Jane’s remark took all the tension out of it. Although the bleeding was spectacular, Susan didn’t suffer any serious harm, but it was a memorable occasion."
Written by John Shaw (Course 6) for Colin Lowe (Course 16).
Vale Guy Montague Hilton-Barber (Course 2)
Guy Montague Hilton-Barber, formerly of Barberton Ranch in the Bubiana Conservancy passed away in 2018 at the age of 85.
Guy was born in Grahamstown in 1932 from 1820 Settlers. His father moved to Rhodesia in 1938 where he was educated at R.E.P.S. and Plumtree Schools.
He was an avid sportsman playing cricket and hockey for Matabeleland Schools. He then played cricket for Nuffield Schools and later for Rhodesia, and for the South African Country Districts side. He also captained Rhodesian Country Districts.
On leaving school he went to Gwebi Agricultural College and then worked on the Matopos Research Station, where he met Moira in 1956. He and Neil Purdon received Nuffield farming scholarships in 1956, and went overseas.
Guy married Moira in 1960 and he started farming in the Filabusi farming area with his father. He received a Crown Land farm in West Nicholson in 1961, where he and Moira began building their life on “Atherstone”.
He was chairman of the Cattle Producers Association also Vice chairman of the CFU, declining chairmanship. He was Matabeleland cattle representative for the CFU.
He introduced Charolais cattle to Rhodesia, bred Tuli, Charolaise, and Charbray registered herds. Showed cattle at Agricultural Shows in Bulawayo, Gwanda and Gwelo, receiving many trophies.
He was a pilot for 40 years, a Matabele linguist, a great humourist and loved by workers and colleagues alike.
He and Moira left Zimbabwe in 2004, driven out by ill health and invaders. He came back to his roots in the Eastern Cape to Settlers Park, Port Alfred.
His three sons Myles, Craig, and Grant, his daughter Vanessa, his seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren and Moira say farewell to a greatly loved patriarch and husband after marriage for 58 wonderful years.
Guy was a very well-known and much liked personality in our agricultural industry who was extremely generous with his time spending many years serving on numerous committees in a number of positions. It is people like him that played such a huge and important part in developing our growing industry at the time and his incredible work has left a huge legacy, which we still feel the benefit of today in a large number of fields. He was also a very solid supporter of the CFU.
Tragically the conservancy he helped develop over a number of years, restocking it with an incredible number of wildlife species, including many of the endangered species, fell victim to the brutal slaughter, which preceded the violent occupation of the properties within the beautiful conservancy. As much as he and others lobbied hard and appealed far and wide, doing everything they could, the slaughter and deforestation of their sensitive habitat was unstoppable. After this emotional loss he and Moira moved to Port Alfred.
Guy will be missed by so many people but most certainly never forgotten.
Colin Lowe and Commercial Farmers Union.
Stan Penny (Course 2).
Stan enrolled at 16 years of age where he "surprised everyone, including myself by graduating, and also winning the Tour essay competition and Friesland judging award". After farming in the Plumtree district, he emmigrated to Canada in 1964 with his wife Eyleen (née Ashworth) and 3 children, all under 6 years.
Stan worked as departmental store manager with a large retail organization and followed this up with a career in real estate where he was owner of two agencies and then National Training Director for a franchise organization. Presently he is a Business Consultant and Corporate Coach.
Passing of John Pigott (Course 2).
John was a food production professional. He went to Plumtree School and graduated with a Bachelor in Education after obtaing his diploma at Gwebi with Course 2.
Anne, John's widow, told Gavin the sad news that John passed away suddenly from a heart attack in Southport, South Coast, KZN, South Africa in early 2017.
Gavin James (C15) informed Colin Lowe and LinkedIn.
Neil Purdon (Course 2)
There were three Purdon brothers - Donald, Neil and Tom. Donald and Neil have since passed away. Neil was educated at Umtali School, followed by senior school at Plumtree. He did extremely well, both academically and on the sports field. He was also head of Milner House, Deputy Head of School in 1950 and Captain of Rugby for the 1st XV at Plumtree. He also played for the Karoi Rugby Club. It is not known where he did his pre-Gwebi training but after Gwebi, graduating with C2 in 1952, along with winning the Lord Acton Prize for Animal Husbandry, he worked for Dallas Kirkman (father to Keith) at Donnington Farm, Norton. Neil then he went to Windswept Farm in Old Umtali, where he farmed with his parents, Donald and Irene. In 1959, he was awarded a Nuffield Scholarship, where he had a memorable overseas trip with Guy Hilton-Barber.
In 1961, he was allocated a farm in the Tengwe Block, under the Government Tennant Farming Scheme, where he was instrumental in this area's inception, along with nine other farmers - Colin Bray, Peter Granville, Dick Harris, Colin Turner, Ronnie Palmer, Nigel Loney, Derek Perkins, Wilf Letcher and John Daneal. He began farming in Tengwe in 1962, clearing land from virgin bush and establishing Meidon farm. He married Zillah Meikle in May 1962 and they had three children - Nicola, Guy and Debbie. The farm name was derived from the Meikle/Purdon surnames.
He was passionate about conservation and was actively involved with the local I.C.A. in the area. In 1963, he enlisted with the BSAP Reserve and served with PATU in the Karoi area from 1963 until April 1980. Neil was a skilled stockman particularly with cattle and sheep and he also grew a variety of crops, which included tobacco, maize, cotton, soya beans, groundnuts and sunflowers. He was Soya Bean Grower of the year in 1967. Meidon Farm was sold to his neighbour, Colin Bray in 1983. Neil had previously purchased a farm in Burma Valley in the Eastern Districts on the Mozambique border in 1975 where he grew burley tobacco and bananas. The total farm size was about 1200 hectares, with not too much arable land. The family never got to live on the farm as most of it had been 'liberated' by the state. Approximately 20 hectares of the farm remains - this is being used for the production of bananas.
In December 1982, the family emigrated to Greytown in the Natal Midlands, in South Africa, to pursue a mixed farming venture. Four years later, in 1986, Neil and Zillah returned to Zimbabwe, where Neil was employed by Tabex as an agronomist for small scale tobacco growers. Tabex then diversified into the fresh cut flower industry - the company was known as Tabex Flowers, where Neil was instrumental in the expansion of the flower industry. In 1988, he was offered a position with Flora Marketing as a technical director, which involved providing agronomic advice to some 70 flower growers countrywide. He continued with Flora Marketing for approximately 20 years, until his untimely death on 8th October 2008.
Thanks to Neil’s son, Guy, for this biography, and Dave Mason.
Rex Tattersfield (Course 2).
Joseph Rex Tattersfield was born in 1932 in Ontario, Canada.
He obtained a Diploma in Agriculture from Gwebi Agricultural College, Zimbabwe in 1952 and a BSc (cum laude) degree in agriculture from the University of Natal, South Africa, in 1955.
Between 1956 and 1982, Rex was employed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Zimbabwe, as follows:
Gwebi Agricultural College as Lecturer from 1956 to 1961.
Grasslands Research Station as Agronomist from 1961 to 1963
Crop Breeding Institute as Leader, Oilseeds Breeding Team, from 1963 to 1982.
He was employed by Seed Co Ltd between 1983 and 2003 as Head of Research from 1983 to 1993 and then as Senior Plant Breeder from 1993 to 2003.
During his career he has been involved in research in the following fields:
In 1967 he spent 3 months at the Plant Breeding Institute, Cambridge, U.K, studying breeding methods with special reference to self-pollinated crops.
In 1976 he spent 1 month in southern Brazil studying soybean research.
In 1984 he visited the United States of America for 1 month to attend the World Research Conference and visited various soybean research organizations in both the southern and northern United States of America. In 1988 he spent 2 weeks in Denmark and United Kingdom studying Plant Breeding and Seed Production.
In 1994 he visited Thailand for 2 weeks to attend World Soybean Research Conference.
In 2001 he spent 1 week in Edinburgh, Scotland, attending the XV1th Eucarpia Congress on “Plant Breeding Sustaining the future"
He and his wife Sheila made a very important contribution to the oilseed industry and the staff at Rattray Arnold Research Station are continuing this legacy because of their enthusiasm and communication skills during those days. That the Soyabean industry grew up in the southern portion of Africa to the vast industry that it comprises now is attributable to Rex. The deficit in the provision of protein in so many parts of Africa would have been many degrees worse if we still had to depend on fish to supply protein for both stockfeed and human consumption. Rex’s work on this crop was relentless and highly successful. Under his guidance yields rose from less than one tonne to the hectare to a level where four tonnes was achieved and five was becoming possible. After retiring he was in demand in Southern Africa as a consultant soybean breeder and was awarded a Gold Medal by the International Soybean Association for his contribution as a breeder. Despite failing health during a long battle with cancer, he continued to respond to enquiries that came his way.
Sadly, Rex finally succumbed in Cape Town in 2017.
Contributions from Southern African Plant Breeders' Association, Dr Tony Donovan, Harwick Hale and Mike Caulfield
Ian Taylor (Course 3).
Ian was awarded a Lord Acton Prize for Animal Husbandry on graduation, and remained in Zimbabwe after Gwebi.
Peter Whittall through Ken MacLachlan
Arnie O. Alcock (Course 4).
Arnie was awarded the Johnson Prize for the Engineering Essay and a Lord Acton Prize for Animal Husbandry. After Gwebi, he worked for Reg Morkel on Ceres Estate at Shamva for 4 years. In 1958 moved to a maize farm owned by Rijk Fischer and married Alexina Milne who was from Scotland. They had two children - Owen in 1961 and Bonnie in 1963.
Arnie was awarded state land in 1971 at Umvuma but it needed to be developed. The seasons were good and the cattle did well so Arnie bought an adjoining ranch.
In 1983 he married Denise and they lived on Bembezaan Ranch. In 2007, when he had lost 90% of the ranch they moved to Gwelo. They had a house built in Chintsa East near East London which is a retirement area and holiday resort with a magnificent beach and moved there in March 2008. Tragically Denise passed away from cancer in 2010 some five years after diagnosis.
Arnie married Jenny who had been a school teacher and has four adult children. He finds the people of the Eastern Cape to be very friendly and easy going and is enjoying woodwork.
Arnie Alcock through Ken MacLachlan and Colin Lowe
Arthur J Cunningham (Course 4).
Arthur graduated and was awarded the Lilford Shield for the best second year in Practical and had won the Friesland Cup for livestock judging in his first year.
He was living near Bulawayo after graduating.
Last contact with Arthur was when he was living near Johannesburg.
Arnie Alcock through Ken MacLachlan.
Robin W. Day (Course 4).
Rob is from farmer pioneer ancestors and his father was in Namibia and then East Africa during WWI. Once again he was in East Africa during WWII but was invalided in 1943 and returned to the farm. Rob is the younger brother of Anne, who married John Shaw (Course 6), and they boarded at Umtali School. Rob and John were best friends at school at Umtali. and attended Gwebi in 1952 after school. Rob's very good friend from Gwebi was Arnie Alcock.
Anne relates: "My father pioneered grape growing in Rhodesia and ultimately had over 10,000 vines the main variety being from cuttings brought in by the pioneers. As the variety was unknown it was eventually named the Forest Hill variety which was the name of the farm near Rusape on the Inyanga road bordering the Makoni TTL. Dad was a mixed farmer as there was only 20% arable land on the farm."
Rob worked with his father and they pioneered grape-growing, tobacco and fruit from the 1920s to 1970s on sandy soils. He was innovative and a highly respected farmer who was always pleased to impart his knowledge to anyone who showed an interest in agriculture, wildlife and the environment.
He passed away in Johannesburg in 2015.
John Petheram, 8th July, 2015 and Anne Shaw, 7th November 2017.
J Doug Fuller (Course 4).
Doug was awarded the Acton Trophy for the genetics essay competition. He was the best man to Ken. Doug was married and had two sons but passed away from cancer some time ago.
George T. Horton (Course 4)
George went to junior school together with Ken MacLachlan (C4) at Milton Junior School, Bulawayo and then went on to the senior school while Ken attended Bulawayo Tech.
They met up again on Course 4 at Gwebi where George was Dux Student in his second year and received the Central African Fertilizers Prize for the best first year and also the Central African Fertilizers Scholarship for 1953. He graduated with a distinction in Animal Husbandry and many other awards.
Because of these wonderful results, his father and owner of Lion Kop Ranch close to Kalomo in Zambia, rewarded him with an elephant hunt in the nearby hunting area. Sadly George was killed only a few weeks after graduation on the 10th September, 1954 by the elephant he was hunting and so ended the life of what undoubtedly would have been one of the most prominent cattle ranchers in Zambia.
George’s father paid tribute to his son’s memory by erecting the squash court at Gwebi.
Colin Lowe and Ken MacLachlan.
Angus M Loggie (Course 4).
Angus attended St Andrews in South Africe with Peter Whittall and they both enrolled at Gwebi in the same year. Angus graduated with a Distinction in Field Husbandry and was awarded the Rhomil Shield for the best all round student at Poultry Husbandry and a Lord Acton Prize for Animal Husbandry.
Angus suffered from asthma and passed away a long time ago.
Ken W. MacLachlan (Course 4).
Born in Bulawayo, Ken attended Whitestone briefly in 1942. After that he went to Milton Junior School and followed this up by going to Bulawayo Technical School. He graduated with a diploma from Gwebi in 1954 with a distinctioin in Engineering and the award of The Mundy Cup for the Planning Essay competition, the Brockhouse Prize for runner-up in the Engineering Essay and a Lord Acton Prize for Animal Husbandry,
Ken farmed for a few years. This included working on Section 5 of Frogmore Estate for Mike Glennie who was married to Ken Sheriffs’ (C4) sister Phoebe. After 10 years working with Rhodesia Railways he left for South Africa. “My wife and I had 33 great years in Cape Town, where I worked as MD for a clothing company Sweet Orr and Lybro, making overalls for the nation and men’s jeans for Woolworth’s.” Ken worked for a few years at the textile firm Merited.
He had visited Madeira 15 years previously and after retiring and selling up in Cape Town, he bought land in Madeira. His son is living in Maine and has just turned 60 and his daughter Heather is living with Ken and his wife. “We started our little business here when I was 80 about 3 years ago, having sold up in St James, and then used the money to build 3 cottages here. Two are for tourists as self-catering cottages.” There are plans for expansion.
Ken S Sheriffs (Course 4).
Ken graduated in 1954 and was awarded the Romyn Cup for Livestock Judging and a Lord Acton Prize for Animal Husbandry. He married Moira and they were farming on Tilford Road, Norton. Moira passed away recently.
Peter Whittall through Ken MacLachlan
Peter Charlton Whittall (Course 4).
Peter attended St Andrews in South Africa. Ken kept in contact with Peter as Peter was his son’s godfather. Peter remained in Salisbury after graduating but passed away in December 2016 from cancer of the lymph nodes and the bladder. He is survived by his wife and seven grandchildren.
Fred J. Cilliers (Course 5)
Fred attended Prince Edward School and enrolled with Course 5 at Gwebi College of Agriculture. He graduated in 1955 and was awarded a Lord Acton prize for Animal Husbandry.
He was based at Grasslands Research Station with the Department of Conservation and Extension and had a strong following across the industry and spoke regularly at seminars.
He has moved to the Cape in South Africa.
Peter J. J. Hartley (Course 5).
As to my recollections of Gwebi: It was a most memorable, fascinating and extremely rewarding time. So many memories come to mind and unfortunately many of them unrelated to lectures and the practical side of our course.
Doc Fielding ,who used to do an evening tour of the hostel, after a couple of sundowners, was highly embarrassed one evening by a student who would not come down off the roof when ordered to. The weather cock had been dressed with a blazer in anticipation of his visit.
I remember the tradition on overnight farm tours of never leaving an beer undrunk, with predictable results, as the farmers were certainly generous with the supply.
I remember also saying “If we get cold meat and salads again I”m walking out from lunch” and being followed by the entire student body. (Not intentional on my part!) Needless to say we didn’t get cold meat and salads for some time after this. We used to raid the cold room, after removing the hinges on the locked door,at night during swotting time, and make omelettes in the kitchen. They never worked out what had happened to all the eggs. We had a very obnoxious engineering lecturer Taffy Reece, who would lock you out of the lecture hall if you weren’t seated before he arrived. I stood aside to let him in one day and he locked a few of us out. Red rag to a bull!. He arrived for his next lecture to find I had locked the door and we all informed him that he was late! He was often late. We refused to open the door until Pedro Donovan, our vice head, arrived to reason with us.Taffy was always on time after that. He was not popular. I remember Taffy telling Doug Stoddart, who was carrying an anvil, to “Drop that and follow me”, which is exactly what Doug did, but on Taffy's foot. I could go on for ever!
Going through the Roll of Honour, as I did a few days ago, so many names have sparked memories. People that I thought I had forgotten now have faces and I wonder how many of them are still around and where they are. It would be so interesting to know.
As from my life after Gwebi. I was a farm assistant on a mixed farm, mainly dairy, in Shangani, Matabeleland before joining the Department of Native Agriculture, as it was then. I was sent to Binga and was involved in moving the Batonka out of the Zambesi Valley, during the building of Kariba. Many interesting stories from that time. I was transferred to Nkai and joined a Land Husbandry planning team before being transferred to Kezi for the implementation of the Land Husbandry Act in the Tribal Trust lands. After the start of the trouble in that area I joined Conex as an Extension Officer and was responsible for Figtree and Metopes ICAs as well as Samnene Native Purchase Area.
By this time I was married and had three young daughters. My wife, Gloria, and I made the difficult decision to emigrate and we joined a family business in Johannesburg. The transition from Agriculture to the hectic business world in Johannesburg was not easy. After six years the business was sold and we moved back into Agriculture. I ran the irrigation section at Gledhow Sugar Estate, on the North Coast of Natal for three years before going back into another family business in Durban. I was fortunate enough to retire at age 53 and Gloria and I bought a small yacht in Gibralter (a Sadler 32) and we sailed in the Med for the next 8 years, flying back every year to South Africa, to enjoy our growing family of grandchildren.
We are currently living in Auckland , New Zealand, where two of our daughters now live with their families. We love New Zealand and the people here remind us very much of those we left behind in Rhodesia so many years ago.
I think that that is enough for now as I could go on forever about a time in my life which was really great...
Peter has asked anyone else from Course 5 who reads this to please contact him. Use the Contact page.
Gavin J.M. Langham (Course 5).
Gavin was awarded the Central African Fertilizers Prize for the Farm Project and Oral on graduation. He married Ken Sheriff’s sister Phoebe who had been widowed.
Peter Whittall through Ken MacLachlan
Ian Barron and the Mashona herd at Gwebi (Course 6).
Ian was a founding member of the Mashona Cattle Society and established a herd on Gomo Estate in the Ayrshire South district which was renowned for docility and fertility. During the farm invasions, like many of his neighbours, he was arrested and suffered the indignity of being thrown into jail for refusing to vacate his own farm. On leaving Zimbabwe, Ian sold the nucleus of his herd to Gwebi.
Mashonas had acquitted themselves extremely well during the first phase of the national crassbreeding trial that was managed at Gwebi from 1975 by lecturer Steve Bennett. Weaners were run with Africander and Sussex and their purebred and crossbred progeny were sent to Henderson and Matopos for the second phase for finishing or breeding.
Ian has retired at Hermanus where Colin visted him in 2015.
Colin Lowe and Steve Bennett, 2015.
Geoff V. Hawksley (Course 6).
Geoff was farming in Centenary but lost his farm and has retired to a small property at Juliasdale.
"How I landed up at Gwebi and the Prime Ministerial Tree" by John Shaw (Course 6).
I didn’t really want to go to Gwebi. The problem was that, academically, I was rather advanced for my age. I wrote Cambridge Schools Certificate in 1951 when I was only just 16. I gained sufficient credits to be awarded South African matriculation, which meant I could go to any South African university. It was decided that I was too immature to go to university, so I should stay at school for another two years and write Cambridge Higher Schools Certificate. That did not impress me very much, but I could not see that there was any option. I had wanted to join the Air Force as an apprentice Instrument Fitter. Dad vetoed that. So, there I was at school and wishing I wasn’t, except for our science teacher, Pixie Farrell, who introduced us to the study of ecology. I found that fascinating, and still do. In 1953, after a year-and-a-half, after the adventure of the Rhodes Centenary Exhibition in Bulawayo (which is entirely another story) I heard of a job as a learner assistant on a tobacco farm near Marandellas. That seemed to me to be much more exciting than staying on at school, so I saw the Headmaster and told him that I thought I was wasting time at school and I wanted to apply for the job. To my surprise, he entirely agreed with me and wrote a very good letter of reference for me.
So, off I went and started work on the farm, Chirume Ranch, out toward Wedza. I wrote home: “Dear Mum and Dad, I have left school, this is my new address”. That went down like a lead balloon. Anyway, I became totally immersed in the job. This was the first tobacco crop they grew because they had been in cattle, but most had died in the drought. So we built barns and cleared land and did all those development things. I was put in charge of the seed-beds, which was totally absorbing and quite new to me. Eventually Dad put a lot of pressure on me to go to university, so I ended up in Pietermaritzburg, studying for the degree in Agricultural Science. I was still very immature and very unhappy. I saw a student counsellor who heard me out, and said, “you are totally in the wrong place. You need to be somewhere which is more hands-on”. So I left PMB and went to work for my previous employers who were now developing a farm in the Centenary Block. That really suited me - wild country, lots to develop, buildings to build, dams and roads to plan and construct, and, of course a crop to grow. I really enjoyed my time there, but Dad then insisted I go to Gwebi. I was reluctant, but I went and have always been grateful for the opportunity. There were a couple of fellows I knew there from Umtali High School – Alec Young and Vilmo Loveric. There are so many Gwebi stories, it was quite fantastic.
I should tell you about the Prime Ministerial Tree. Garfield Todd, who somehow had become Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia (I cannot understand why anyone would have elected him to Parliament, let alone make him Prime Minister. He was a missionary from New Zealand, with a very unsavoury reputation. Most Rhodesians couldn’t stand him.) Anyway, the occasion was the opening of the new hall, which had been under construction for about 12 months. To mark the occasion the PM planted a tree in the quadrangle, quite near the hall. We students were very impressed. I totally refute the suggestion that we pulled the tree out. On the contrary, we cared for it lovingly. At any time, during the evening there were to be seen a couple of students irrigating the tree. Unfortunately, the tree did not prosper so the Principal, Doc Fielding, called in the Director General of Forestry to view the tree and diagnose its illness. I have forgotten the DG’s name, but he was a memorable character. We all gathered round him while he examined the tree. He eventually turned to Doc Fielding and said, in a very plummy voice, “I really do think this tree is suffering from an excess of uric acid”. How right he was. The tree was removed and never replaced.
This same Forestry man lectured us on forestry matters now and then. In one memorable lecture on the preservation of timber he said, “Creosote is a wonderful preservative. It is often used to treat the piles of piers. I am, of course referring to the pillars of the jetty, not the haemorrhoids of the aristocracy”.
I would welcome any news you have about any Gwebians from any Course. There was something about the place which still binds us.
Narrated by John Shaw, Townsville, North Queensland, 2015 to Colin Lowe.
Vale John Shaw (Course 6).
John's father was an Anglican minister in Gloucestershire until he moved in 1946 with his family to Rhodesia. John attended Umtali School and as he had already started schooling at an ealier age in the UK he was moved up so was young for his class. His best friend at school was Robin Day (Course 4) and so he met Robin's sister, Anne, who was older than the boys. His early days, including some anecdotes from Gwebi days with Course 6, are posted above.
John moved to Australia in 1961. While the Rhodesians were taking their stand, the conservative political party 'The Country Party' sent John over to Rhodesia to see if there was anything that could be done to help Ian Smith beat the 'Terrs'. This conservative party did not support the Liberal Party Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. John met Ian Smith and was given free rein to visit everywhere, including the 'Sharp End'.
John had two daughters and a son but divorced in the 1980s. His subsequent partner passed away early in 2001. Shortly after that his brother, Chris - who had kept contact with Anne Cooke née Day since their Umtali schol days - wrote to Anne who had just lost her husband Peter of almost 45 years to a massive heart attack and gave them each other's addresses. After corresponding for a few years Anne visted John in Australia and they married in 2004. They started their new life together working very hard to restore a very badly degraded farm in Southern Queensland which John had bought in May 2003. John wrote a book from his experiences and their time together and Anne provided the photographs. The book is called 'This Thankful Earth - A Practical Guide to Sustainable Land-use'. They applied knowledge gleaned over four continents, but much was driven by programs initiated and carried out by the Department of Conservation and Extension in Rhodesia in the 60s and 70s.
John and Anne restored the farm 'Carlton' to be more fertile than it had been in the virgin state. John shared his memories via Colin Lowe's email newsletter to the Gwebi fraternity and a few have been posted on this site. John was a frequent contributor despite the the rapid deterioration to his health after the diagnosis of an aggresive brain tumour in September 2015.
Anne Shaw in Queensland, Australia wrote. "With a heavy heart, but very grateful that John is at Peace at last after his courageous battle against all odds, my beloved John passed away relaxed, quietly, very peaceful and in no pain at 6.30p.m. on Thursday evening the 28th April 2016."
This book is his legacy and more information and an order form can be obtained by clicking here.
Summarised from Colin Lowe's tribute with contributions from Anne Shaw.
Vale Strath Brown (Course 7)
James Strathearn Brown, known as “Strath”, was born in Salisbury in 1937, the third eldest of seven children from Jim and Molly Brown. Strath’s father, although a farmer by upbringing and training, had volunteered to fill in as the temporary General Manager of the Farmers’ Co-op, a job that transformed into a thirty year permanent position and which he held with considerable success and it is why the family moved into town from their farm in Sinoia and lived on The Ridge in Avondale.
Strath attended Avondale Primary School in Salisbury and then Prince Edward School for his secondary education.
Having applied and been accepted to attend Gwebi Agricultural College with Course 7 Strath did his pre-College practical with Archie Black, the well-known Hereford breeder, on Mgutu and Maryvale Farms in Mazoe.
Strath excelled at Gwebi graduating in 1957 with a First Class Diploma and Distinctions in Engineering and Practical and picking up the Lilford Medal for Leadership and Example, the Stewarts And Lloyds Prize for Practical Engineering and the Johnson Prize for the Engineering Essay. Due to his leadership qualities Strath was elected Student Chairman by his peers in his final year at the College. For many years after graduating Strath was invited to return to the College to address the students and share his farming experiences with them. This commitment to the College culminated in Strath being appointed to the Gwebi College Advisory Council.
Strath then returned to work for Archie Black for a season after graduating before setting off with his Gwebi friend Mike Edgar to backpack for three years around Australia and New Zealand. He counted 36 different jobs in three years including milking cows, shearing sheep, cutting cane, stomping grapes, wood cutting and finding the time between all of these jobs to take his Private Pilot’s Licence and finally become a flying instructor in New Zealand.
During this time, in 1961, he met and married Beryl Bond in Rotorua in New Zealand who was an Australian mid-wife working there and it looked as though Strath might settle down in either Australia or New Zealand. However, after his son Andrew was born, the pull of his home country was too strong and the family headed back to Rhodesia.
Strath returned with no money and no employment arranged but soon secured a job with Wally Hustler growing Tobacco on Squatodzi Farm in Trelawney. Here the family stayed from 1962 and left in 1969 but not before Strath and Wally had jointly won the Rothman’s Tobacco Grower of the Year for their work on revolutionising the handling and curing of the tobacco crop with their design of the Hustler-Brown curing tunnel.
In 1969 Strath stepped out on his own and purchased Mkonono Farm in Darwendale where he grew Tobacco, Seed Tobacco and Seed Maize. He expanded his farming operations until at one stage he was the world’s largest single producer of Tobacco Seed. He then bought another two farms, Squatodzi, where he had originally managed for Wally Hustler, and Mpanda Farm in Darwendale concentrating on Tobacco.
Once he was established and thriving, and knowing how difficult it was for a young and enthusiastic farmer to start out on his own, Strath financially supported dozens of undercapitalised managers who had worked for him to buy their own tobacco farm. Obviously he put in safeguards to protect his investment but this scheme worked well and many emerging tobacco growers owed their farming independence to Strath’s farsighted ideas.
Having installed competent managers on all three farms Strath now involved himself in an Engineering business in the city called J.S. Brown Industries where he manufactured all the components required for his curing tunnel and then expanded into other engineering projects including the ‘Manipula’ clip used in the reaping of tobacco, designed by Strath, and which proved to be popular and much in demand. This successful company was managed by Andrew, his oldest son, who later bought it outright.
Strath loved experimenting, solving engineering problems and building so it was inevitable that he would be called on to advise on many projects including the improvement of the tobacco bale handling facilities at Tobacco Sales Ltd. and then, due to that success, being asked to design and manage the construction of the brand new auction floor for T.S.L. which became the largest tobacco auction floor in the world, selling in excess of two hundred million kilograms of tobacco for two consecutive years.
Strath, ever since his New Zealand days, was passionate about flying and about instructing new pilots and he taught all five of his children to fly. He entered more than thirty Zimbabwe Air Rallies, sometimes as a pilot, and sometimes as a navigator for one of his children or other young and enthusiastic pilots, winning the event three times and finishing in the top three most of the other times. Strath owned over the years a Mooney, a Piper Super Cub and Cessna 210.
During the Bush War Strath, flying his Mooney, was a member of the Salisbury Flight of the Police Reserve Air Wing (PRAW), and later the Lomagundi Flight, and during his seven year commitment probably landed at nearly every airport and bush airstrip in the country.
During 1969 Rob Gee along with Dave Higgins, a friend from C7 Gwebi, who later obtained a B.Sc. in Animal Science, approached Strath about starting a commercial crocodile farm based at Spencer’s Creek in Victoria Falls. Strath was not enthusiastic about this project to start with but was gradually won over by his two partners’ enthusiasm and, after meeting with National Parks in Salisbury, they were given the go-ahead to start Spencer’s Creek Crocodile Farm. Although the aim of the project was to collect eggs from the wild, hatch them, grow the crocodiles to the correct size, slaughter them, have the skins tanned and then sell the skins on the lucrative overseas market the partners soon realised that this project would take some years to come to fruition. So they made the decision to buy in a hundred live crocodiles of varying sizes from the van Jaarsvelds at Binga and get a head start on this process. This soon became a tourist attraction in Vic Falls and provided some welcome income to this new venture.
Over the years the Spencer’s Creek partners learnt much about breeding crocodiles, worked hand in hand with National Parks, and were often consulted by people also wanting to get into the crocodile business. This included flying to Greece to look at a possible start-up for some Greek businessmen on the island of Rhodes as well as selling over a hundred live crocodiles to a crocodile farm on a Kibbutz in Israel. Spencer’s Creek did well, expanded, and by 2014 had 40,000 live crocodiles in their pens and were selling 12,000 skins to overseas markets. As all three of the original partners have passed away the company was owned and managed by Strath’s two sons, Andrew and Jim, who in turn have sold it on to Zambezi Crocodiles in order to enlarge Ilala Lodge.
Strath, never one to shy away from controversy, felt UDI by the RF Government was a retrogressive act which would lead to hardship and disruption of the country’s economy. Having the courage of his convictions he joined the new Rhodesia Party, at that time under the leadership of Allan Savory. Following the death of the RF incumbent of the Sinoia-Umvukwes constituency, a by-election was called for in February 1974, and Strath found himself standing for election against three other candidates. Strath came a credible second and although not elected to Parliament, was satisfied that he had, as he put it, ‘stirred it up.’ Another project that he became involved with in 1989, again rather hesitantly, was the purchase of a piece of prime land in Victoria Falls that he was offered by the Gardini brothers where the Sprayview Restaurant had previously been situated. The Brown family, together with Rob Gee, gathered a team of competent and capable employees who got stuck in and built the 16 room Ilala Lodge. However they did utilise a local construction company who built intermittently but used a professional architect, Richard Beattie, and interior decorator Thelma Newmarch who worked well together and the Hotel was opened in 1991. Over the years due to its success the Lodge has expanded to 32, then 56 and finally to 73 rooms at present. The family still own and manage the Lodge to this day.
In 1994 he and Roy Hacker were invited to invest in Spurwing Island on Lake Kariba and they joined eight other shareholders who were mainly farmers from the Bindura area. With this injection of finance Strath was able to indulge in his flair for organisation and building which he did with great enthusiasm.
Strath now had a taste and understanding of tourism so built an eight chalet camp called Chizarira adjacent to the National Park of the same name which had magnificent views overlooking the Zambezi Valley. At 2000 square kilometres this Park was home to an abundance of wildlife, including the largest population of Black Rhino in the world. The Lodge specialised in walking safaris to find and observe these Rhino and although the Lodge was now doing well, poachers started to decimate its main attraction and National Parks made the decision to relocate what was left of the Rhinos to Conservancies in the middle of the country and the Lowveld. This led to a decision to sell the camp and invest that income into building more rooms at Ilala Lodge.
In the late nineties Strath was approached by some young financial experts in Harare who understood the complicated money market operating in the booming economy that Zimbabwe was enjoying at that time. Foreign governments and NGOs were all clamouring to invest in the country. CFX was a local financial services company that wished to take advantage of this bullish market but were undercapitalised and asked Strath to join them as a partner which he did. From CFX grew KFX and CFX Merchant Bank plus a merger with Century Bank. This venture into the world of finance was successful in the early stages but as time went by and the catastrophic economic policies of the Government took effect, hyperinflation started to kick in and the land invasions gathered momentum resulting in the economy beginning to decline, Strath realised that this financial arena, with all its shenanigans, was not a place where he felt comfortable, so he withdrew much to the relief of his family.
Due to his down-to-earth and successful approach to business Strath was invited to join the Board of many agro-industrial companies in Zimbabwe. One such company was Interfresh, one of the largest suppliers of fruit and vegetables in the country. Under his Chairmanship, Strath negotiated the purchase of Mazoe Citrus Estates from Anglo American and this acquisition proved to be very profitable for Interfresh.
Strath had long learnt to delegate authority to the managers of his numerous business interests which freed him up to travel locally and internationally, either for work or pleasure. He was often asked to speak at field days, farmers’ meetings and agricultural workshops and also undertook a tobacco handling and curing consultation to the Philippines. On the recreational side he visited the Antarctica and Indonesia. One of the hobbies that Strath enjoyed and took to like a duck to water, literally, was scuba diving, graduating from the Oriel Girls’ swimming pool, to the submerged Ethel Mine and then to the Chinhoyi Caves. It wasn’t long before Strath, now PADI qualified, was diving in the sea off Mozambique, Mauritius and the Red Sea. Other interests Strath developed over the years were bee keeping, playing bridge and cycling which he took to with his usual enthusiasm in his mid-sixties and completed three Cape Argus Cycle Races.
Strath had been plagued by varicose veins in his legs for most of his adult life which often turned into varicose ulcers causing him to wear pressure bandages but in spite of many visits to specialists in South Africa these ulcers refused to heal and often caused severe infections particularly in his left leg resulting in a loss of strength and health. Tired of continuous medication of antibiotics that didn’t seem to work Strath made the decision himself to have his leg amputated just below the knee at a hospital in Cape Town. He had no regrets and claimed that his life, both mentally and physically, improved immeasurably after the operation.
Strath, married to Beryl for thirty-seven years, had five children – Andrew, Jim, Keith, Laura and Marion all of whom made their parents very proud as they have all made their mark in their particular field of interests and expertise. Sadly Beryl passed away from Cancer in 1998. Strath, several years later, married Dawn Beirowski to whom he was married for fourteen years until he too passed away on 28th March, 2014.
Extract from his book “Strath – A Biography” with kind permission from his family.
A F S Millar (Course 7).
Was Branch Manager for Dulys in Sinoia.
Vale Terry Searson (Course 7).
Terence James Searson began life on Bath Farm in Wedza before the family moved to ‘Garway’ in Borrowdale to join his grandparents. Terry attended Highlands Junior School and was a foundation pupil at Churchill High School. He attended Gwebi Agricultural College from 1955 to 1957 followed immediately by his National Service out of Llewellin Barracks, Bulawayo.
Terry met Fortune whilst at Gwebi and they were married in 1959. Terry and Fortune had four children: Tim, Robin, Simon and Juliet with Tim and Simon joining their father on the land later in their lives. Terry began his farming career on a dairy farm called Glen Nora (now the Township on the outskirts of Harare) before moving to Karoi to work for Lionel Jacobson growing tobacco. The move to the Beatrice / Harare South area in 1962, firstly to work for Count Lazanski on Canterbury farm, followed by a managerial position on New Retreat farm (Shore Hall Pvt Ltd), and then to Whitham working for Mark Chester, proved successful as Terry went on to buy Beatrice Central farm in the early 1970’s.
Terry was a varied and successful farmer, trying his hand at many ventures before settling for winter wheat, soya beans and maize which led to being able to purchase New Retreat farm in 1982, thereby gaining the water rights on both sides of a stretch on the Mupfure River. The extensive irrigation systems implemented by Terry on both farms, including a large off river water-storage dam, lead to highly successful cropping yields and national recognition for winter wheat production.
Terry contributed extensively to the community during the civil war, as well as during the land invasion debacle, establishing himself as a natural and respected leader. He could be relied upon to keep a level head in moments of extreme stress and was a man of great integrity.
Terry and Fortune lost the farms during the land acquisition programme and moved to Harare in 2002, settling in Highlands. Terry secured work at the Celebration Centre on the Borrowdale road as the Maintenance Manager, which kept the wolf from the door.
Terry and Fortune immigrated to Australia in February 2015 to be closer to their children, despite their sadness at leaving Zimbabwe. They successfully settled in Werribee, Victoria where he passed away in December 2017 aged 80.
Colin Lowe from CFU
Bob Cary (Course 8)
Robert Charles Cary attended Course 8 at Gwebi along with his friend Clive Nicolle, who also passed away during 2019.
Bob Cary was well known in the Darwendale, Trelawney and Banket districts, and across the broader Zimbabwe farming community. Bob was successful; Cockington Estate in Darwendale was a diverse commercial operation for which Bob should be extremely proud. Some of the achievements to note would be “Ground Nut King” in the late 70’s, the production of Cockington Wine, a very successful Charolais breeder, export flowers and Rhodes Grass, regular high scoring in the Tobacco Grower of the Year annual competition, and his love for Wild Life with the creation of Shields Game Park and Lodge where 22 species of plains game thrived, having relocated breeding pairs from around Zimbabwe.
Bob passed away on the 21st September, 2019 while on holiday in Portugal.
He is one of these successful and innovative farmers that this country was blessed with. He was never shy of sharing any of his knowledge, experience and success with the next generation of farmers, or his neighbours. He has left a valuable legacy of knowledge, albeit with his family and the next generation of farmers. Although he will be sadly missed he will most certainly not be forgotten as he was one of the great characters in his district.
He is survived by his wife Shirley and their children Robert, Lorraine and Rozanne and their families, grandchildren and great grandchild, Bob will be sorely missed.
Consolidated from tributes from Colin Lowe
Bob Dunckley (Course 8).
Born in Ndola, Bob attended Whitestones in Bulawayo then St Andrews College in Grahamstown. He was awarded a First Class Diploma with Course 8 in 1958. After National Service he graduated with a B.Sc.Agric from Natal University and returned to the family farm. After marrying Naomi they worked in Canada for seven months then returned home before joining Lever Bros. He was Farm Manager at Gwebi from 1972 to 1975 then worked for a year in Nelspruit. He returned as Head of Field Section and succeeded Hugh McLean as Principal. Bob was farming in Enterprise during the Farm Invasions then moved to Blackfordby in Banket where he became Head.
Naomi ran the Poultry Section at Gwebi from 1979.
Phillip “Clive” Nicolle (Course 8)
Clive, eldest son of P.E.N. Nicolle was third generation Pioneer stock. His father was a friend of Rodney Mundy and hosted many tours from Gwebi, and the next generation continued the tradition.
Clive enrolled at Gwebi College of Agriculture with Course 8.
He led from the front, and was a farmer, businessman, community man and above all a family man. Clive like so many loved the country of his birth, and when Rhodesia became Zimbabwe his energy was not found wanting as he worked to make the country a better place. He was tough, loved by many, not so much by some, but above all he spoke his mind, and was never frightened to be personally involved.
He never stopped developing and investing in the country, and pushed to get projects like the grain silos built in Chinhoyi involving the farming community. His business ventures were wide and varied, and he was proud of the fact that his family were a big part of feeding Zimbabwe. It was a great disappointment to him and his family, that after getting the Biri Dam built and again involving the local farming community, the water was never used by those who invested in the project.
Apart from flying, he loved polo, and with his wife of 60 years Elizabeth, known by many as Liz travelled the globe playing polo. He played polo for Zimbabwe, and was president of the polo association for many years. It was not surprising when Clive and Elizabeth decided to build a polo field on their farm. Many a fine game was held at the venue, and good times were had by all.
Clive passed away peacefully aged 81 at home in Maleny, Queensland after a long illness on 15th July 2019. He left Elizabeth and the family, Philip, Patrick, Beth and John, with their families, many grandchildren, and a great grandchild.
Consolidated from tributes posted by Colin Lowe.
Beverley Arthur Suter (Course 8)
There are no two ways about it, Arthur lived an extraordinary life, full of twists and turns, plans, action and adventure, and I was privileged to walk with him for 55 years.
His beginnings were small, and I mean that quite literally. He was born two months premature in a tiny Maternity home, in Gwelo, more or less in the centre of Rhodesia. He weighed just one and a half pounds and by the time he went home, he had lost that precious half pound. His Mom told me he was so small he was lost in the baby clothes she had prepared, so she knitted two sets of doll's clothes so he had something to wear. The very fact he survived was a small miracle in itself, helped along by his devoted mother and the Matron. It was an indication of his determination to survive no matter what! He was the third child of Arthur and Maddy Suter, and had two older brothers.
When the time came to go to school, Arthur had to attend boarding school, which was not his favourite time. Nevertheless he found a life-long interest in electricity and electronics and built himself a radio receiver from bits and pieces, equipped with an enormously long wire aerial, which he set up by climbing the huge gum tree outside his dormitory window. When he was older he built a complete sound centre and hi-fi from scratch.
The years passed and when he was sixteen he began his apprentice as a shopfitter, wherein he became a skilled artisan. However he continued his studies at night classes. Arthur had always longed to fly and applied to join the Rhodesian Air force when he finished his apprenticeship, but was rejected as he had to wear glasses. In the process his horizons had grown and expanded; so he decided to use his savings, and enrolled at Gwebi Agricultural College in 1956; from where he graduated two years later with a First Class Diploma with distinctions in Engineering and Practical.
Some years later on a quick trip down to Cape Town to see his Mom and Dad, God stepped in when we met and fell in love. At the time I was 19 and studying at the university. We were married about 12 months later, when I finished my exams, and moved up to Rhodesia, where we began our married life.
Things progressed steadily, and we were blessed by the arrival of three beautiful babies - Charmaine in 1969, Keith in 1971 and Renee in 1973. Arthur began farming in a small way, on the family farm at weekends and his Mom and Dad kept an eye on things during the week while Arthur was working in town. He started with a small, but good, group of cows and a pedigree bull, and his herd grew and thrived; he tilled, fertilized and planted crops - it was hard, but satisfying work. The machinery, tractors and equipment he bought second hand, overhauled and renovated to good working condition. During this time he also began training for his Private Pilot's licence, studying navigation along with other subjects. We bought a small aeroplane and he achieved his licence. Our family had outgrown the seats in the 'plane, so Arthur drew up and submitted plans to the Department of Aviation for a kiddies seat in the luggage area. His plans were approved and he built the seat. Arthur had been part of the Volunteer Army Reserve since leaving school, and was required to attend camps regularly. He told us he learned discipline during this time, but he found it very frustrating never actually knowing just what they were doing. Soon after we were married he transferred to the Air force Reserve and enjoyed that a great deal better as he was involved in the Intelligence, radio, Mission control and planning section. As the terrorist war broke out in Rhodesia, greater calls were made on the reservists and they were called up more and more frequently to fill the gaps in the manpower of the regular forces. This meant quite long absences from home, with no communication (as this would have been dangerous for the men). We never knew just where he was, or what he was involved in and it was always a joy to greet him each time he came home. Gradually over time we began to see that no matter how much we tried there would be no future for our children in Rhodesia. This was particularly hard for Arthur, who loved his country dearly, had fought for her, and wanted his children to have the same sort of childhood he himself had enjoyed. We began to apply to various countries to be accepted as immigrants, one of which was Australia. The process took over three years, until we were finally given an interview. The Australian Immigration officer casually told Arthur we would find living in Australia rather tough after riding on the backs of the Africans for so many years. This had the same effect on Arthur as a red rag to an angry bull. He promptly and forcefully pointed out that in Rhodesia we had NO apartheid. In fact it was the Africans who could claim free schooling for their children and free health benefits for themselves and their families, while the Europeans had to pay for all these services. We also provided them with accommodation, and often clothes as well along with their pay. We walked out of the interview quite sure we would be rejected - but Arthur felt he had at least put the other side of the situation forward. We had virtually given up hope when out of the blue we received a letter from the Embassy informing us we would need to be in Australia by the end of March.
This meant a huge change of direction, turning his back on all he had built up so far, but he felt strongly it was in the best interests of his children. He resolutely set about selling all the animals on the farm, all the equipment he had worked so hard to repair and restore including a Caterpillar D7 he and his Dad had worked on for months; along with all our household goods. Relatives in Melbourne had offered us a place in their home for as long as we needed it, which was greatly appreciated. We finally got to meet Arthur's uncles, aunts and cousins. Arthur found a job quite quickly and we moved into a rented house and began life in Australia.
Time passed and he bought a small industrial engraving business, which thrived and gave us a living. We were blessed by the arrival of our two Dinkum Aussies, Yvette and Angus, completing our family. We began home-schooling the children and after some months Arthur began to think of how we could expand their horizons. He loved sailing and had sailed home-made boats on the farm dam from when he was a young lad. As the children grew he made sure they knew how to sail and row and were confident in small boat handling. The germ of an idea took root and grew, of buying or fixing up a boat suitable for ocean travel and taking the youngsters over to Africa to see where we had come from. The children were keen and eager to be part of the adventure. After some avid searching he found Kiley, a 45ft steel ketch.
Once again a mammoth change in direction and we sold the house and furniture and moved up to Gladstone, where we worked on the boat for just over three years. During this time Arthur spent time with each of the youngsters, teaching them how to use tools, solve problems, create what was needed, and check to see it worked properly; putting to use all his electronic, engineering, welding, planning and building skills. Finally he guided us through the preparatory trial sails until we finally set off.
Sailing was truly an amazing experience and yes we had our storms, and beautiful times, laughter and tears, sickness at sea with pretty well everything else jammed in. We arrived at Durban then sailed around the Cape of Storms to Cape Town. God was with us through it all.
Arthur felt the responsibility keenly, and was very proud of his crew - often telling people he would not have done it without their cooperation and support. An incident springs to mind soon after we left Spain. We were hit by a series of heavy Atlantic storms all coming from the direction we were trying to go. For the first time Arthur succumbed to sea-sickness. Soon we were all sick, exhausted and demoralized and were slowly being forced onto the long shallow Moroccan coast - a place we did NOT want to visit. We had been tacking for hours and not making much progress against the screaming wind. Arthur was on watch and he took our troubles to the Lord, telling him we had done everything we could and asking God what more we could do. Just then he looked up and just for a moment caught sight of a very bright star, before it disappeared behind the heavy storm clouds. Arthur said it was as thought God had said "Don't worry I'm still here - just like the star even though you can't see it, I am still here looking after you. Just keep going." A few hours later the wind changed direction slightly and we began to make progress. We continued and arrived in Australia later that year.
Once again he prepared for a huge change of direction. Soon we were clearing our things off Kiley and into storage. Arthur had decided it was time to sell his beloved Kiley and begin a new adventure. He was keen to try farming again and eventually bought a bush block out at Yarwun, just north of Gladstone. Arthur spent the next few years planning and building again - taking what we could afford and turning it into what he wanted. He set about making roads, building sheds, a small dairy and a house and gradually getting settled.
Throughout all his long, busy and active life, one thing stands out like a beacon, God walked all the way with him, carrying him through the rough patches, leading him through the tough situations and cheering him on when things went well before taking him home to be with Him forever.
Edited by Steve Bennett from an Obituary, Rhodesians Worldwide 35(3):26-7.
Richard Brooker (Course 9).
"Richard was born in Grahamstown and went to school at St Andrew’s, Grahamstown and only came up to Rhodesia when his Dad came to teach at Falcon College when Falcon first opened. His folks then returned to Grahamstown and he and his two brothers chose to stay here in Zimbabwe.
We got married in 1969 when he was in partnership with Simon Dakin on Brookfield Farm, Victory Block and then, later on, purchased our own farm, Brandon Farm, also in Victory Block in 1971. Richard was primarily a tobacco farmer, district 3, but also grew seed maize, paprika, cattle, sheep and wild life. He was one of the top growers in our district and assisted many of our neighbours.
He was very involved in many committees – Water Board, District Council, Seed Co Op, Farm Community Trust, Farm Families Trust and was the Chief Hail Inspector in our area. He was on the ICA, Agriculture Labour Bureau, NEC, Area Coordinating Committee, Farmers in Touch, ARAC (CFU) He played cricket for Mashonaland Country districts for a number of years, before concentrating on his farming.
The farm was eventually taken over by the War Vets and we moved to Harare in 2001.
Richard passed away in August 2015.
We have two daughters, Nikki and Sally. Nikki lives in Perth Australia and Sally in The Cayman Islands".
Gail Brooker 2015.
Vale P. Ross H. Hinde (Course 9)
Ross Hinde excelled at Gwebi as Best All-Round Student in First Year and as Runner-Up in Second Year.
He went farming at Saffron Walden and married Liz. He was a passionate farmer and great community man. Above all, his family came first. He was well known in rugby circles as a top referee in Harare. They were violently expelled from their farm early in the so called land reform programme.
They eventually settled in the Cape and were a popular couple at Somerset College where Lizzie was the school nurse and Ross worked on the grounds. He was always cheerful and battled heart disease for many years but passed away on 13th March 2019 in Gordon's Bay. He is survived by Lizzie and two daughters and a son and their families.
Tributes from Jim Sinclair (also Course 9) and Andrew Pascoe, President, CFU.
Jim Sinclair (Course 9)
James McLure Sinclair was born in Cape Town where his mother had travelled down from the family farm in Melsetter. He was the eldest of four children and was raised along with them back again on Albany farm. He attended Melsetter Junior school before completing his education at Bishops College in Cape Town. He worked on a forestry estate before attending Gwebi Course 9. Jim relates his time at Gwebi: “So began two very happy years in Course 9 at the Gwebi College of Agriculture. I found myself in a room with Robin Harben and so was to begin another lifelong friendship although living in a room with somebody like Robin had its ups and downs, as did our friendship.
“My parents at this stage of their farming career had very little money and so it was decided that I would be given an allowance of £5 a month. This was perfectly adequate as I remember beer was only 1 shilling and a pack of 50 cigarettes cost about the same. You could go to the movies for 4/9d and have spaghetti bolognese for 3/6d. Fast food joints were unknown but the closest would have been the drive in restaurants and The Blue Gardenia at Greencroft on the site of the present Mike Harris Motors and the Yellow Orchid on the Gatooma road were spots of choice for Gwebi students of the day. If we were headed out to Highlands Park for a dancing date with one of the lovely girls who lived out in the posher suburbs then the Gremlin was a good spot.
Drinking holes were important and the old Meikles was one of our places of choice. The Quorn and the George hotels were equally well frequented and being in Avondale and Marlborough respectively had the merit of closeness to our place of what could be loosely called work! The George was taken off the list for a while after Richard Winkfield was accused of stealing a pot plant, which he denies to this day. We were all heavy smokers, at least all the fun guys were, and we lived life to the full with parties, girls from the nurses’ home, and other ladies homes such as SACS House and the YWCA. These girls all had to be home by certain times, and we became experts in concocting stories or finding illegal routes into the various homes.
“One of our company was a lad by the name of Peter Davis whose father worked for the Italian firm Impresit, the main contractors for the Kariba Dam, and one weekend in particular has gone down in the folklore of our era. We had been on an all-nighter at the Nurses’ Home and as we got back to the College as the dawn was breaking, someone said, “Kariba is closing off today”. So somebody routed Davis out and he phoned his father to say we were coming and off we set. The road was strips a lot of the way and the Makuti-Kariba bit was dirt. I was in Charlie Close’s Series 1 short wheel base Land Rover which was appallingly bumpy and began to feel the after effects of whatever we had been drinking at the Nurses’ Home, soon after Nyabira. We had no time to stop if we were to see the arches at Kariba sealed off so began possibly the worst trip of my life. If you wanted to be sick in those vehicles you had to either lean over the back while undoing the canvas back or undo the side canvas and puke away. Meanwhile Close who was a bit of a tearaway anyway was foot flat heading for Kariba. Never again! However it was all worthwhile as we saw the first tipper trucks tipping the fill into the riverbed and start closing the arches that had been left at the bottom of the wall. A pretty historic day and certainly one to remember.
"We had a pretty reasonable range of sports and Gwebi cricket was an important part of the Country districts scene with Gerald Deary representing Rhodesia and many others like Richard Brooker and Robin Harben representing Rhodesian Country Districts which was a pretty strong side then. Rodney Mundy our Animal Husbandry Lecturer was the driving spirit behind Gwebi cricket. For some reason a group of us in our senior year ended at Rodney’s house one night celebrating the arrival of his son Hugh. This was one of the better parties of the time and it ended with some of us falling into the garden of Rodney’s neighbor, Jimmy Walsh, who was not only a teetotaler but had no sense of fun when it came to rowdy students. Luckily for us Rodney Mundy spoke up for us and we did not get any punishment although we certainly should have. Rodney later became Principal and later still sadly succumbed to cancer after losing both his legs. He is of course remembered in the Rodney Mundy Cricket Competition. Rugby was my sport and we played in the Second Salisbury League, which was of a reasonably high standard. The social side of this was of course one of the attractions and we played mostly in Salisbury and the surrounds. Sometimes we went as far afield as Bindura or Sinoia.
“A car was out of my range but about half of us had cars such as Morris Eights (Les Thomas), Morris Minors, Prefects and the like. So there was plenty of transport available and if you had no car or a lift in one you could always hitch a ride with Glynn Williams on his BSA Goldstar 500. This bike came to a fiery end when Glynn got so angry with it one night he left it in the ditch opposite the Greencroft shopping centre and threw a match at it! Robbie Girdlestone who had made lots of money in the Northern Rhodesian copper mines had an Austin Healey 100, which was by far, the best car owned by a student. Unfortunately this car was such a bird puller that Girdlestone only lasted a couple of months and went off to New Zealand to recover! The Honourable Nick Maxwell Lawford, a very eccentric Englishman, had a smart black Ford Zephyr 6 and pots of money sent to him by his family to compensate for being out in the colonies and away from home. His brother had succeeded to the title and the family seat and this was Nicholas’s small recompense. He had spent time in the RAR in Nyasaland and wore bowler hats and red waistcoats on farm visits and the like. He shared a room with Ant Swire Thompson. Elvis Presley was at the height of his powers and Warwick Norvall fancied himself as a Presley clone with black jeans and shirts and sideburns. Party time was any time at all, and with party animals like Harben sharing my room it was difficult to settle to serious work.
"The University of Rhodesia had just started and some of the rivalry became quite serious. One occasion was when the University raided us and was beaten off easily. So easily in fact that we took their clothes and gave then a newspaper each and told them to get back to Salisbury. Among the luminaries involved in that escapade was Andy Coulhoun later to become M.D. of the Farmers Co-op and Tony Hawkins was at the University at the time as well.
“The education on offer at Gwebi was of a pretty good standard but I think the practical side was of more value. There was a great deal of emphasis on the practical and even today I can remember useful bits of information that I learnt at Gwebi. Course 9 consisted of quite a remarkable bunch of young men. Our number included two Presidents of the CFU, two Farming Oscar winners and some really outstanding farmers. We have since held several reunions and these have been splendid affairs.
“While at Gwebi we were all called up for military service and went along for our medicals. I failed because of my asthma as did Harben. Nobody thought it strange that two asthmatics like us were smoking around 20 cigarettes a day each! Swire Thompson had flat feet so the three of us were excluded from the elite of the Federal Armed Forces.”
After Gwebi he worked for his father before spending a year working and touring overseas. Jim returned in 1961 and went to work at Chibero College. He later moved to work for Tim Riley as a farm assistant in Norton and subsequently to Umboe where he managed a farm for 5 years.
In 1965 he married Anne Everett who had recently been widowed and left with a young son David, and he moved to Serui Source farm in Norton which had been in Ann’s family since 1933. There, son Doug and daughter Jeanie, were born. Jim Sinclair went on to be elected President of the CFU from 1981 – 83 and served on numerous boards. He served as Chairman of the Beef and Livestock Committee of the Cold Storage Commission for eight years, during which time he negotiated the industry through the most important phase of its exports to EEC under the Lome concessionary terms to the ACP Group.
This was a milestone in the development of the beef industry in Zimbabwe, and Jim served as Chairman of the subsidiary offshore beef importing companies in the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and Germany.
During this period, he worked closely with producers and had a very difficult path to follow in trying to meet the aspirations of producers, while at the same time trying to keep the Cold Storage Commission on track and wrestling with its growing deficit situation. This he did most ably and earned the everlasting respect of all in the industry for his contribution.
In the complete restructure by the government of its agricultural parastatals and their management boards, Jim's services were no longer available to the industry in the revitalisation of the Cold Storage Commission.
However, Jim's contribution to the beef industry will never be forgotten, and he was awarded a Gold Medal by the Zimbabwe Society for Animal Production (ZSAP) in 1991.
Jim doesn’t talk about it, but it is on public record that his farm was one of 804 that Robert Mugabe announced in 2000 that would be taken for resettlement.
"I don't know how to even begin leaving my farm," he is reported to have said, at the time, when faced with eviction. "I had reckoned it would take five months to wind up the farm, not a few weeks."
He said he feared an increase in lawlessness. "This gives carte blanche to anybody who wants to move onto the farms. Some of them are armed."
Five white farmers had been killed since Mr Mugabe's supporters began invading farms three months ago. As president of the Commercial Farmers Union, he had encouraged white farmers to continue under majority rule but subsequently he saw little hope for large-scale farming. "This will tear the heart out of commercial agriculture," he said. "It's the beginning of the end of the economy of this country."
Other farming families began packing up valuables in fear that their property would be invaded immediately.
An extraordinary government gazette was published announcing the confiscations. Some of the farms involved were owned by black Africans, most of whom were critics of Mr Mugabe. People would be moved onto the farms by the end of June, despite the fact that the farm owners have 30 days to lodge legal objections to the confiscations. Neither support nor infrastructure was provided to the new owners and the repercussions still resonate.
Jim was subsequently arrested and detained for allegedly inciting public violence against people illegally occupying his land. He was held in a bare police cell in the farming centre of Norton, 40km south-west of Harare, in midwinter, with 13 prisoners who were given seven blankets to share.
He denied the charge when he fronted a magistrate the next day, and was freed on bail. The charge carried a possible penalty of imprisonment.
Lawyer Richard Wood said in a statement the charge stemmed from a June 12, 2001 incident in which ruling party militants occupying Sinclair's property were chased off, apparently by inhabitants of an adjoining peasant farming area who torched 12 of the militant's makeshift huts.
Jim moved with Ann to live in Harare. Once settled in Harare, Jim assisted Doug in the set up of a furniture factory and later he and Ann spent several happy years in the landscaping partnership with their great friends, Bruce and Patsy Keevil.
He passed away in a hospital in Cape Town on 16th October 2020.
Ben Gilpin ex CFU.
Vale Anthony Swire Thompson (Course 9)
Past President of CFU, Ant Swire Thompson, passed away aged 80 in Harare on 27th February 2019 following a long illness.
Anthony John Swire Thompson was educated at St John’s College South Africa and came to Gwebi in 1957 enrolling with Course 9. He immediately showed leadership potential and was elected to the Student Council. He played first team cricket for the College and his wicket haul as a bowler is fondly remembered.
After Gwebi, Ant, Robin Harben and Jim Sinclair took advantage of cheap flights to London in 1960 via the Overseas Visitors Club. Ant then worked his way to Canada and on a Canadian Dairy Farm before returning to Zimbabwe and getting a job with George Stanger in Centenary.
Here he met Ian Stewart and the two of them started Inyanga Downs Orchards. By then he had married Deirdre and their first home on Inyanga was a caravan with little or no protection from the cold and braved the cold with two small boys in true pioneering spirit. They proceeded to build a most beautiful home using local stone and the farm was rapidly developed into one of the leading fruit and flower operations in the country. They were in a very vulnerable area during the bush war but stuck it out and when peace came the development continued until Inyanga Downs Orchards became the leading apple producer in the Country with innovative methods of apple production from orchard to market and the export potential was soon being realised.
Ant soon became involved in other activities and was a founder member of the Fruit and Vegetable Co-op and served on that board. He also served on the ALB and became Chairman. He also served as a member of the Coffee Committee of the AMA. Eventually he became the Vice President of the CFU and followed Alan Burl to the Presidency of the CFU from 1992 to 1994.
His is a great story of service to his fellow farmers as well as being a successful farmer himself. Although considered a quiet man he held considerable respect throughout the agricultural industry and with government. He had deep concern and great affection for all his fellow farmers and was extremely community minded freely passing on his many years of experience to the new generation of farmers and his neighbours.
He was forced off his farm in 2010. That was not the end of his public service though. He saw a need for farmers who had been forced off the land and in need of financial assistance so he initiated the Farm Families Trust and chaired that organisation for many years. So many in need of medical treatment were assisted following financial hardship after the loss of their homes and businesses to land reform.
His beloved wife Dee died at the end of 2010 and she was an enormous loss to the family and Anthony.
Ant had lived in retirement in Dandaro in Harare.
Contributions and tributes from Andrew Pascoe, President of CFU; Jim Sinclair, past President of CFU; and Graham and Judy Hatty.
Richard Winkfield (Course 9)
Richard attended Churchill School from 1950-54 and enrolled with Course 9 at Gwebi College in 1957. He was awarded the Farmers Co-op Prize for Progress in his First Year and graduated in 1959. He was in the Stock Section at Gwebi and worked for Conex, Ministry of Agriculture for twenty years and was at Mayo before moving to Salisbury and was associated with the college over much of the time. Richard completed his BA (Ed) at the University of Rhodesia/Zimbabwe in 1982. Richard was Chairman of the Grasslands Society of Zimbabwe. He was probably best known for the years spent developing and managing ART Farm as Director from 1985, which is still in operation today. He also featured in the Farmer Magazine with his popular - often humorous - Bottom Line contribution every week, which many turned to read first before reading the rest of the magazine. A book titled "The Bottom Line" was published and is enjoyed by those who leaf through cherished old days again. Richard was also a Trustee of the CFU for a number of years and his services in keeping the Union on track were greatly appreciated. He always kept a keen eye on the Union, even after he left and continued to give useful and wise advice. Richard was Chair of Blackfordby. He went on his own as a consultant after having his home and land taken in Mazoe.
After moving to New Zealand he retired in 2013 in Gisborne & Hawkes Bay. He passed away on 6th February 2017 after a short battle with pancreatic cancer leaving Venetia, and his family - daughter Louise and Bruce Stobart, and son Nicholas and Alison Winkfield and grandchildren.
In memory and recognition of the immense contribution made to Zimbabwean Agriculture by Richard, the Agricultural Research Trust is renaming the Agricultural Training and Development Centre as The Winkfield Auditorium at a ceremony to be held at A.R.T. Farm on 15th June 2017. Richard and Venetia's daughter, Louise, and her family will be in attendance.
John Petheram, Colin Lowe, Bob Dunckley, ART, and Peter Steyl/CFU President
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